I’ve been anticipating Fury for quite some time. Writer/Director David Ayer is one of my favorite folks in the industry, and I’m always eager to find out what he’s churning out next. From Training Day to The Fast and The Furious, Ayer’s writing is always top notch. Though recently he’s taken up the directing duties himself (resulting in one of 2012’s best films, End of Watch) I was a bit worried after his most recent effort, Sabotage, released to middling reviews earlier this year.
Looks like Fury drew all of his real focus. Fury debuted its first trailer with a bang, and has never let go. Tragic, hilarious, and full of more acting chops than you can shake a stick at, Fury is f**king fierce.
Taking place in April 1945 as the Allies occupy Nazi Germany, Fury tells the story of a small group of soldiers and their tank: Sergeant “Wardaddy,” (Brad Pitt) “Bible,” (Shia LaBeouf), Grady (Jon Bernthal), “Gordo,” (Michael Pena) and the newest recruit Norman (Logan Lerman), whose never seen battle before being thrown in the tank with the others. And that’s really it. That’s both Fury‘s most well regarded aspect and biggest flaw. As with other Ayer films, Fury is all about the small things. Choosing to focus on character work over big events tends to always make the narrative falter. It’s no different in Fury, unfortunately. Thankfully, Fury’s built on a solid foundation of character arcs. While the narrative may not have a clear direction, the character evolution is set up quite nicely.
Due to its focus on characters over the grander narrative, it’s implicitly broken up into smaller vignettes. If you take each scene as a small pocket of story, it’s easier to digest. While that might make the pacing of the film harder to follow, it’s far more enjoyable when you realize you’re just supposed to take each scene as they come. So it’s pretty much like every other David Ayer film where he stretches out smaller beats in between big action scenes. Yet this time, the focus is all on those smaller beats. The best example of this is early on when you first meet the crew. In order to break the tension, they start joking around and there’s a beginning and ending to that story before going on to the next thing. It’s pretty neat.
The more I watched Fury, the more I fell in love with its well built core. If any one of the five central actors were weak, the whole thing would’ve fell apart. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about any of that as there are no slackers here. Brad Pitt doesn’t get a lot to do other than put on a machismo front, but his pensive moments truly shine through when they occur little by little. It’s not much more than a stare off into the distance, or a hint at a troublesome past, but it works. Jon Bernthal plays up a country drawl pretty well, Michael Pena plays between comedic and tragic as his character usually gets more of the jokes in the film (along with a well delivered speech), and while Logan Lerman is the weakest of the bunch (which is a shame given the amount of focus he gets), he’s fine as a stand in for the audience as we get to find out more about everyone else.
The breakout star is definitely Shia LaBeouf. I’ve seen different facets of his performance in other films, but it’s still surprising to see him pull off emotion with such nuance. At times he gives his dialogue a stone faced delivery so that it’s intentionally hard to decode, and at others, he’s on the brink of tears. LaBeouf gets the toughest role. He’s the one character who doesn’t pretend he’s hardened through war and instead uses religion to pacify his guilt over committing horrible acts of man, and thus needs to display a well of emotion just bubbling under the surface. That aspect of his performance can’t be laid out well through words, so I’ll just say every cut to him during the final scenes is heartbreaking. His sorrowful stares are a sight to behold.
Now Fury isn’t perfect. Just by writing this review I’m recalling certain issues I had with its finale as it mirrors many of Ayer’s other film endings, the film’s flow might take some getting used to (with one particular scene feeling totally out of place), and it’s got a few shades of predictability, but I can’t say those issues had a huge effect on my overall enjoyment watching. Fury is a little over two hours, but I didn’t feel it at all. I was completely invested because the characters at the center were so compelling.
Oh yeah, I had forgotten all about the action scenes! The tank fights are pretty damn great too. Haha I got swept up in how well everything else was done, I kind of forgot this was a war film. And that’s the point. It’s not about World War II, and there’s no big mission to kill Hitler or save America or anything like that. It’s just about some poor guys who are trying to make due in their mess of a world.